The violations of freedom of expression and other human rights will only increase under new Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, who is otherwise known as the “henchman” of the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners.
Why is this specifically? Well, a bill is due to be considered by the Iranian parliament that will restrict freedom of expression, even though its title indicates the opposite. (It’s called the plan to “protect the rights of users in cyberspace and organize social media”.) Essentially, a committee made up of the Intelligence Ministry, Revolutionary Guards, and the State Security Force will monitor social media, basically allowing the armed forces to take over Internet management and showing new internet repression.
MP Hamideh Zarabadi admitted: “The content of this plan shows that it does not match the name chosen for it … We see the same thing in real space. They want to extend it to cyberspace and turn cyberspace into a security space that is also controlled by the armed forces.”
And the state-run website Kargar Online on July 3 wrote: “One million jobs depend on Instagram and virtual networks. But the parliament ignored this statistic, turned its back on the internet and the head of the parliament’s cultural commission says that they are standing by the plan to restrict the internet!
“It seems that the plan to organize cyberspace has not been removed from the agenda of the parliament, and the members of parliament are trying to approve this plan secretly and away from the eyes of the media and critics and to inform the government about its law.
“Morteza Aghatehrani, the head of the parliament’s cultural commission, announced yesterday: More than 130,000 posts have been posted from abroad about the plan to organize the media and cyberspace, and they have opposed it. But we stand by this plan, we have done our job.
“He said that we have prepared the law, we will take it to the parliament and we will do it. Because, according to Aghatehrani, the plan to organize cyberspace media has been in demand for many years, and this year we were able to achieve it.”
If people or groups post things online that the government does not approve of, they can be subjected to Ta’zir punishments, including:
- imprisonment (91 days to six months)
- fines (ten to twenty million Rials
- floggings (11-30 lashes)
- social rights deprivation (up to six months)
Of course, the regime has a long history of repressing its people online, as can be seen in the aggressive censorship seen of social media platforms around Iranian elections and during uprisings, such as the November 2019 protests that were violently repressed. The officials blocked many websites and messaging services to stop Iranians from discussing the protests amongst themselves and the rest of the world because the content was considered “anti-government propaganda”.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned this just days after the internet blackout began, which made it hard for Iranians to contact any outside body or media outlet to let them know about the crackdown.
The RSF wrote: “The Iranian regime must adhere to its obligations to respect international standards and put a stop to all digital discrimination.”
Iran Human Rights Monitor urged that all Iranian citizens have their freedom of expression respected and advised that the new internet plan indicates that the Revolutionary Guards wants to dominate cyberspace and all communication.
They wrote: “We condemn this plan and believe that the Iranian people should be able to have the right to freedom of expression.”